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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Are the Right Books in the Old Testament?

Don Stewart :: Were All of the Books of the Old Testament Written by Prophets?

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Question 3

Were All of the Books of the Old Testament Written by Prophets?

The Bible gives testimony that most of the books of the Old Testament were written or edited by prophets. Men, such as Solomon, who were given special wisdom by God, wrote the other books.

The Old Testament evidence is as follows:

  1. Moses Was a Prophet

    Moses, the writer of the first five books of the Old Testament, was called a prophet. He wrote the following:

    The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you?from your fellow Israelites; you must listen to him. (Deuteronomy 18:15 NET)

    The prophet Hosea later said of Moses:

    The LORD used a prophet to bring Israel up from Egypt, by a prophet he cared for him. (Hosea 12:13 NIV)

    Moses was assumed to be a prophet by all of the people of Israel.

    • There Were Other Prophets in Moses’ Lifetime

      There were other prophets, both male and female, in Moses’ lifetime. We read in the Book of Exodus about a female prophetess. It says:

      Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a hand-drum in her hand, and all the women went out after her with hand-drums and with dances. (Exodus 15:20 NET)

      Other prophets were assumed to be operating. Moses recorded the Lord saying the following to the children of Israel:

      And he said, “Hear my words: When there are prophets among you, I the LORD make myself known to them in visions; I speak to them in dreams.” (Numbers 12:6 NRSV)

      This set the stage for prophets who were to come after Moses.

    • There Were Prophets after the Time of Moses

      Later, in Deuteronomy, we read about other prophets that existed. However, none of them had a ministry like Moses. The Bible says:

      Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. (Deuteronomy 34:10-12 NIV)

      All of this assumes that there would have been prophets after the time of Moses.

  2. Joshua

    Joshua was the successor to Moses as leader over Israel. He is the one who led the people into the Promised Land. While Joshua was not called a prophet, he was a man filled with God’s wisdom. We read the following:

    Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the LORD had commanded Moses. (Deuteronomy 34:9 NIV)

    The people listened to Joshua in the same way as they did to Moses; he had the authority of the Lord behind him.

  3. Judges

    Although prophets existed immediately after Moses, it seems they did not write down their prophetic words until the time of Samuel, several centuries later. We do know that there were earlier prophets in the days of the Judges. For example, we read about Deborah. It says:

    Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. (Judges 4:4 NIV)

    In another account in the Book of Judges, we find God sending prophets to Israel. Scripture says the following:

    When the Israelites cried to the LORD because of Midian, he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” (Judges 6:7-8 NIV)

    There may have been others during this time. However, these prophets did not leave behind any written Scripture. They spoke the Word of God to the people but, as far as we know, did not write anything.

  4. Samuel

    Samuel, the probable author of First and Second Samuel, was called a prophet, or a seer. We read about this designation of him in Chronicles. It says:

    As for the events of King David’s reign, from beginning to end, they are written in the records of Samuel the seer, the records of Nathan the prophet and the records of Gad the seer. (1 Chronicles 29:29 NIV)

    The prophets wrote the history of Israel. Their writings served as a basis for the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. The prophet Samuel may have also written the Book of Judges and the Book of Ruth. However, we cannot be certain of this.

  5. Kings and Chronicles

    We do not know who put together the books of Kings and Chronicles. They are the collections of the writings of various prophets. Indeed, Chronicles lists seventy-five different sources for the information contained within the Book.

  6. Ezra, Nehemiah

    While neither Ezra nor Nehemiah was called a prophet, each of them was a man whom God gifted with special wisdom. Most likely, each of these books were written by the ones whose names are on the writing.

  7. Esther

    The author of the Book of Esther is unknown. Any attempt to know his exact identity is pure speculation. Scripture does not tell us anything.

  8. Job

    Although the author of the Book of Job is not stated, we do have God’s Words summarizing what occurred. The Bible says:

    Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?” (Job 38:1-2 NIV)

    After God called the previous discussion, “words without knowledge,” He then added His divine truth. Therefore, we have God’s truth mixed with human ignorance in the Book of Job.

    The Lord later mentions Job along with Daniel and Noah to the prophet Ezekiel. We read the Lord saying the following:

    Ezekiel, son of man, suppose an entire nation sins against me, and I punish it by destroying the crops and letting its people and livestock starve to death. Even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were living in that nation, their faithfulness would not save anyone but themselves. (Ezekiel 14:14 CEV)

    Job was considered to be a man of faith.

  9. Psalms

    David, who had a prophetic gift, wrote many of the psalms. He testified that the word of the Lord was upon his tongue; God spoke through him. We read:

    These are the last words of David: “The oracle of David son of Jesse, the oracle of the man exalted by the Most High, the man anointed by the God of Jacob, Israel’s singer of songs: The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me; his word was on my tongue.” (2 Samuel 23:1-2 NIV)

    David acknowledged that God spoke through him.

  10. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon

    The Song of Solomon, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes are attributed to King Solomon. His authorship, however, is not certain. The Bible speaks of Solomon as a man in whom God gave special wisdom. We read in First Kings:

    The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.” (1 Kings 3:10-12 NIV)

    While not specifically called a prophet, Solomon was given unique wisdom from the Lord.

  11. Isaiah

    Isaiah was recognized as a prophet. We read about this in Second Kings. It says:

    He sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary and the leading priests, all wearing sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. (2 Kings 19:2 NIV)

    His status as a prophet was never questioned.

  12. Jeremiah

    Daniel recognized Jeremiah as a prophet. He wrote the following:

    In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom-- in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. (Daniel 9:1-2 NIV)

    Like Isaiah, it was clear that Jeremiah was a true prophet of the Lord.

  13. Ezekiel

    While no other prophet confirmed Ezekiel’s status as a prophet of God, there are claims from the Book of Ezekiel that demonstrates his prophetic call. Ezekiel said that he had visions of God. In the first verse of the book he wrote the following:

    In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. (Ezekiel 1:1 NIV)

    Ezekiel testified that the Lord also told him to write down certain things. According to Ezekiel, the Lord said to him:

    As for you, mortal, describe the temple to the house of Israel, and let them measure the pattern; and let them be ashamed of their iniquities. When they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the plan of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, and its whole form—all its ordinances and its entire plan and all its laws; and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe and follow the entire plan and all its ordinances. (Ezekiel 43:10-11 NRSV)

    Ezekiel clearly claimed to be God’s prophet.

  14. Daniel

    Daniel was recognized as a wise man from the writings of his fellow-prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel recorded the Lord classifying him with the biblical characters Noah and Job. He wrote:

    Mortal, when a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it, and break its staff of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it human beings and animals, even if Noah, Daniel, and Job, these three, were in it, they would save only their own lives by their righteousness, says the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 14:13-14 NRSV)

    Daniel is in the company of two of the main characters of the Old Testament.

Four of the Twelve Minor Prophets Had Other Prophets Testify to Them

Each of the twelve Minor Prophets had God’s divine calling either explicitly or implicitly attributed to them. The authority of four of the Minor Prophets was testified to in other parts of Scripture. The testimony is as follows:

  • Haggai and Zechariah

    Ezra recognized Haggai and Zechariah as prophets. He wrote:

    When the prophets, Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. (Ezra 5:1 NASB)

    Ezra believed that these men represented the God of Israel to the people.

  • Jonah

    Jonah was called a prophet in the Book of Kings. It says the following:

    He was the one who restored the boundaries of Israel from Lebo Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, in accordance with the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, spoken through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher. (2 Kings 14:25 NIV)

    The fact that Jonah was God’s prophet is beyond doubt.

  • Micah

    Those who lived at the same time as Micah believed that he spoke the words of the Lord. Over a century later, the prophet Jeremiah was being persecuted for his prophecies of judgment. Jeremiah then reminded the people of Micah’s prophecy. He wrote:

    Some of the elders of the land stepped forward and said to the entire assembly of people, “Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah. He told all the people of Judah, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.”’” (Jeremiah 26:17-18 NIV)

    This is a citation of Micah 3:12. It reads as follows:

    Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, and the mountain of the temple like the bare hills of the forest. (Micah 3:12 NKJV)

    Micah’s writings were assumed to be authoritative by later generations.

Each of the Twelve Minor Prophets Claimed to Speak God’s Word

In the writings of each of the twelve Minor Prophets, we find the testimony that the Word of the Lord came unto them. The evidence is as follows:

  • Hosea

    Hosea believed that he was called by the Lord to the prophetic ministry. He made the following claim:

    The word of the LORD that came to Hosea the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. (Hosea 1:1 NKJV)

    Hosea claimed that God’s Word came to him.

  • Joel

    Joel claimed to speak the Word of the Lord. In the opening verse, he wrote that the Lord had spoken to him:

    The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel. (Joel 1:1 NKJV)

    Joel testified that the Lord spoke to him.

  • Amos

    The prophet Amos wrote down the things that God showed him. The Book of Amos begins with this testimony. It reads as follows:

    The words of Amos, who was among the sheepbreeders of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. (Amos 1:1 NKJV)

    Amos clearly claimed to be a prophet.

  • Obadiah

    Obadiah said that he recorded the Word of the Lord. He wrote the following:

    The vision of Obadiah. Thus says the Lord GOD concerning Edom (We have heard a report from the LORD, and a messenger has been sent among the nations, saying, “Arise, and let us rise up against her for battle”) (Obadiah 1:1 NKJV)

    Obadiah is another prophet who wrote down the things the Lord showed him.

  • Jonah

    Jonah the prophet claimed to receive God’s Word. In the opening verse of the Book of Jonah we read the following:

    Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying? (Jonah 1:1 NKJV)

    His claim to being God’s prophet is beyond all doubt.

  • Micah

    The Word of the Lord came to the prophet Micah. His testimony is as follows:

    The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem. (Micah 1:1 NKJV)

    Micah also testified that the Lord spoke to him. As we have already noted, Jeremiah the prophet confirmed Micah’s prophetic status.

  • Nahum

    Nahum was given God’s Words of judgment against the people of Nineveh. He wrote the following in the introduction to his work:

    The burden against Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite. (Nahum 1:1 NKJV)

    Nahum made his prophetic status clear.

  • Habakkuk

    Habakkuk spoke the word of the Lord. He said:

    The burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw. (Habakkuk 1:1 NKJV)

    Again, we have another clear testimony of a man claiming prophetic status.

  • Zephaniah

    Zephaniah recorded God’s truth. He explained it this way:

    The word of the LORD which came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah. (Zephaniah 1:1 NKJV)

    Zephaniah is another example of an Old Testament prophet who spoke the Word of the Lord.

  • Haggai

    Haggai claimed to have received the Lord’s Word. He wrote:

    In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying? (Haggai 1:1 NKJV)

    Haggai prophesied about the rebuilding of the temple. Later, Ezra would confirm the prophetic status of Haggai.

  • Zechariah

    Zechariah was designated as a prophet of the Lord. We read the following:

    In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying? (Zechariah 1:1 NKJV)

    Among other things, Zechariah, in his prophetic words, spoke of the coming of the Messiah. Ezra also confirmed that Zechariah was a prophet of God.

  • Malachi

    Malachi spoke forth and recorded God’s Word. He wrote:

    The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi. (Malachi 1:1 NKJV)

    Therefore, we find that each of the Minor Prophets personally claimed to speak for the Lord. This was their claim; it was not something that others claimed for them.

Consequently, there is sufficient testimony that those who wrote the various books that now make up the Old Testament believed that God had spoken to them and they faithfully recorded what He said. Almost every Old Testament book has an explicit claim of “thus says the Lord.”

Summary - Question 3
Were All of the Books of the Old Testament Written by Prophets?

Most of the books of the Old Testament were written by prophets. The other books were written by wise men, such as Joshua or Solomon, who was given God’s wisdom, or a king like David who was also given a prophetic gift. Each one had a divine calling to write authoritative Scripture.

Only the Book of Esther does not have a clear testimony of an author who was a wise man or prophet. The evidence is that these writers believed they had a calling from God to write down the things He showed them.

How Were the Old Testament Prophets Described? ← Prior Section
How Was the Old Testament Canon of Scripture Put Together? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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